The NY Times published an article on what the members of the House of Representatives are driving these days (The Senate does not lease cars using public money). You would think with the political focus on gasoline costs and environmental issues, most of them would be driving fuel efficient cars, but that just isn't so.
The best part for the Reps is the House pays for leasing the cars and the gas costs. Around 125 members take advantage of the perk. The policy covers general maintenance, insurance, registration fees and excess mileage charges.
Now, before you get too upset, I think this makes sense. Congressional members, when they are in their home states, do need to drive around a lot. They are obligated to get out and meet with their constituents and it is part of their jobs.
And if you are going to vote for who's driving a Prius and who isn't, then you deserve what you get.
But having said that, I don't think we should necessarily pay for any car they want. If they want to drive monster trucks or luxury vehicles, then they should pay for it themselves. There's no need for us to cover every cost. The best way to do that is to put in a rule the lease is covered up to $xxx a month and no more. Anything above and beyond that mark would have to be paid for out of pocket.
The same can't be said about gasoline costs because some members have widespread districts, and of necessity, they need to drive farther than others. The same can be said about the mileage.
The House tacked on an ammendment last year enacting a rule saying the cars that members lease must be fuel efficient cars. That change isn't going over too well for everybody.
"It's not a Cadillac. It's not a Lincoln. It's a Ford," Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) said about his Ford Expedition. He feels the Expedition is reliable, suits his mountainous district and is cheaper to lease than many other vehicles.
"A Prius isn't made in the United States," Gallegly complained.
Texas Republican Joe L. Barton, if he refuses to pay for his own lease, will give up his Chevy Tahoe, despite his protests that it is made in his district. "I guarantee you my district is not upset that I'm driving a Chevy Tahoe," he said.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) was responsible for adding the section in. "They want their Lexuses and their Cadillacs," he said. "I just think it's a poor example for us to spend so much time talking about energy independence and global warming and presenting to the people an image of fat cats living the fat life."
"You guys ask me such idiotic questions," Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) snapped. Her spokeswoman, Dorinda White, explained that Watson chose the Lincoln because she is "over 6 feet tall in shoes" and spends a lot of time driving around her district.
I couldn't agree more, reporters are always asking dumb questions. Too bad it's part of her job to answer them.
"I will start driving a green car once Pelosi starts ballooning back and forth from coast to coast to save jet fuel," said Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla).
In other words, two wrongs make a right, right?
Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.), who drives an Infiniti M45 said safety is his top concern. "If you don't have some giddyup, you're in a lot of trouble," he said. "I really would prefer to be driving a tank."
To me, that indicates he should be worried about legislating safer driving in his state.
"It’s one of the bigger Cadillacs," Mr. Rangel, of Harlem, said cheerfully this week. "I’ve got a desk in it. It’s like an airplane."
At least he's honest about it.
Then there's Representative Jim Saxton (NJ-R), who leases a 2004 Chevy TrailBlazer at $310 a month. "Congressman Saxton feels an elected public official should choose a car that doesn’t cost taxpayers an extravagant amount," said Jeff Sagnip, his spokesman.